No sense of panic in Pirates despite 0-7 slide

Maholm tagged with seven, offense still empty as Mets romp, 10-1

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NEW YORK -- If there is so much as a pinch of panic in these Pirates, even after a 10-1 trouncing by the New York Mets yesterday at Citi Field that marked a seventh consecutive loss, it is impossible to detect.


Today

Game: Pirates vs. New York Mets, 1:10 p.m., Citi Field.

TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).

Pitching: RHP Ian Snell (1-4, 4.50) vs. RHP Livan Hernandez (2-1, 5.53)

Key matchup: The Mets' big threesome of Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado and David Wright bat a combined .185 -- 5 for 27 -- against Snell, with 12 strikeouts.

Of note: In addition to the several players planning to use pink bats to promote breast cancer awareness on Mothers' Day, the Pirates' Nate McLouth will wear pink Reebok cleats, then have them auctioned for charity.


The clubhouse is mostly calm, with a palpable air of confidence among its individuals.

Manager John Russell talks of this stretch as an aberration.

And the man running baseball operations, general manager Neal Huntington, clearly has the same stance and does not sound as if he is about to begin contemplating -- much less executing -- wholesale change.

"Look, we're tired of losing. Nobody accepts it," Huntington said after the game. "But, outside of a few games, it's been a big pitch or big hit that we haven't gotten. Today was not good. And, yeah, if we were just getting drubbed on a nightly basis, it's easy to give up hope. We just need to keep grinding. We still have a lot of time left in the season. We fully expect to continue to work, to prepare, to grow and to put more wins up."

Four of these seven losses have come by three or fewer runs, and a fifth game was tied in the eighth inning.

"I hope that we as an organization never react to short-term emotion, whether we're down or elated," Huntington said. "We have to continue to be patient, tough as it is."

In this one, Paul Maholm was charged with seven runs in five innings, and the offense continued its titanic struggle to score.

Maholm gave up 10 hits, all but one of them a single, in falling to 3-1. He did have one stunning highlight, though, in hitting his first career home run, a drive to right field off John Maine in the fifth that traveled nearly 400 feet.

It was the Pirates' first home run by a pitcher since Matt Morris did it Aug. 4, 2007. And, as per Maholm's recollection, it was his first since 1998, while a junior at Germantown High School in Tennessee.

"I can't even hit 'em in batting practice," Maholm said.

The rest of the team totaled four hits, notably two doubles by Andy LaRoche, and the Pirates' paltry run total during this losing streak is 17.

Team batting average: 195.

How to wake up the bats?

"If you can figure it out, let me know," Russell said. "We've got to start hitting. Be aggressive. Just stay after it. That's all we can do. We can't sit around and feel sorry for ourselves. We have to look at ourselves in the mirror and get after it tomorrow."

Two among the struggling stand out: Adam LaRoche and Brandon Moss, the Nos. 4 and 5 hitters in Russell's lineup, each went 0 for 4. LaRoche is in a 1-for-24 slump, Moss 0-for-14.

"It's frustrating for all of us," outfielder Nyjer Morgan said. "Guys are still confident, but it's hard going through this."

New York dinked its way to a 6-0 lead off Maholm.

In the first, Jose Reyes singled under the backhand attempt of shortstop Ramon Vazquez -- a ball Vazquez should have gloved -- took second on a wild pitch, stole third and scored on Luis Castillo's single.

The Mets added five in a maddening fourth, thanks to six singles that mostly were bloops or bleeders: David Wright, Gary Sheffield and Fernando Tatis had RBIs as the cycle spun around the bases, and Jose Reyes' two-out roller up the middle brought two more.

Several of Maholm's teammates expressed incredulity at his misfortune.

"I guess it's a day where you make your pitches and they find holes," Maholm said. "They're on a winning streak, we're on a losing streak, and that's just how it falls."

The Mets have won six in a row.

The dinking ended in the fifth when Carlos Beltran crushed Maholm's 1-1 fastball into the second level beyond left field, putting New York ahead, 7-0.

"The only hard-hit ball they had off me all day," Maholm said.

Evan Meek and John Grabow gave up the rest of the Mets' runs.

The Pirates have lost 11 of 12, their worst dozen-game stretch under Russell and the worst since that 13-game losing streak under Jim Tracy June 15-28, 2006.


Dejan Kovacevic can be reached at dkovacevic@post-gazette.com . Catch more on the Pirates at the PG's PBC Blog .


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